First Impressions: Tales of Zestiria

Tales of Zestiria Logo

It has dragons and cute characters.

Game Name: Tales of Zestiria
System: PS3
Genre: RPG
Release Date: 22/01/2015
Playtime: 15ish hours

DISCLAIMER
This first impression review won’t contain spoilers until the final part, where I discuss the whole debacle thing. I will mark everything that could be considered a spoiler (in my opinion). Your definition of a spoiler may differ. I won’t spoil any story elements apart from the premise, but will talk about gameplay and characters (though not character arcs).
Also, I didn’t want to proofread, so just take the first draft and shut up.

So, Tales of Zestiria, the 20th anniversary Tales game, was released last week to less than stellar user-reviews which have been widely discussed on Twitter, Tumblr and the like. I got the game on Monday and had enough time to put in around 15 hours. So I thought I’d write an impression piece to let you know how I like the game. This, of course, is not a final review, as I’m maybe around the 30-40%ish part of the game. I just got Rose, who I think might be the final party member, hit level 23 and it feels like the story is now starting to develop.

Story

The story is alright. It’s a Tales game, which were never known for their stellar storytelling. Zestiria is very much “inspired” by the King Arthur tales. There’s areas called Ladylake, Pendragon… and I’m just waiting for Camelot at the rate this is going. But they put a spin on it. Up until now the story has never bored me or made me rage at the characters in the way Tales of Graces f did. So that’s a plus in my book. I really can’t talk much about the story since I don’t want to spoil anything, but I guess if you’ve liked prior Tales stories, you will enjoy this one. If you didn’t care for Tales stories before, you won’t care for this one either. In the context of the series though, I think it does a better job than some.

Characters

God yes. This is where Tales games shine and Zestiria especially. I’ve had my issues with some Tales entries just because of annoying characters before (Tales of Graces, I am SO looking at you) but here I don’t dislike anyone. My favourite is very clearly Mikleo – and paired with his BFF Sorey it makes him even better – but I’ve come to like every character.
Alisha stands out as the most boring of the bunch – she’s still likeable, don’t get me wrong, but her character is just nothing to write home about when compared to the other characters in the party. She’s the generic “Royalty wanting to save her country/world” which is a character archetype we’ve had one too many times. She’s essentially a second Milla from Tales of Xillia.
Even characters I thought I’d find annoying after a while found a way into my heart. I thought I wouldn’t like Edna, since she just bullies everyone all the time, but damn, her banter with Mikleo is some of the best comedy in this game.

I will miss these characters when I am done with the game, which is a very big compliment to the writers I guess.
MIKLEO IS THE CUTEST. Rose is pretty cute, too. Hate all you want.

Gameplay

This is the meat of Tales games and the formula hasn’t been changed up much. You still fight enemies in real-time battle arenas that are now seamless transitioned, so you’re essentially fighting at the spot you touched the enemy at.

This is where the biggest problem with the battle system comes in: the camera. Since you can fight at ANY spot and the camera is fixed behind the characters instead of on top, fighting near a wall or a pillar can become really cumbersome, as it can result in wonderful camera angles like this one. Granted, this one in particular is a very rare case, but the camera is quite awful most of the time, having your characters disappear, making comboing very hard to do as you can’t see what your character is doing while you mash buttons. This is especially grating on high difficulties, where you may want to use the step system or keep up a stunlock.

Apart from the camera though, the battle system is completely to my tastes. Just like in the original Tales of Hearts, you don’t have TP, instead they essentially reuse the EG gauge and call it “SC”. It refills when you don’t do anything or guard and is used to power both your A and B Artes, both of them returning from Tales of Graces. Your A Artes are used my mashing the O button (or well, X button if you have a European or American PS3) and they branch out depending on the direction you press on the analog stick. B Artes can be activated with the X (or O in EU/US) button. They work like Artes in all other Tales games. This time though, you can set 5 of them, instead of just 4. You can also have an AI button which leaves it up to the AI to pick which Arte to spam.
So essentially, they just took Tales of Graces f’s system and mixed it with Hearts.

Outside of battle there’s quite a bit to do. You can find stone monuments (which work as tutorials), Normins (kind of like the cats in Xillia 2) and Discoveries (returning from Graces). Save points start out in a “closed” state and “open” when you touch them, enabling you to spend Gald to warp to them from anywhere (whenever the game allows you to, that is). Following some story events, you can even spend GRADE (earned through battles) at save points to get items and “upgrade” the area that savepoint is in or you can set Normin to find better equip, which will strengthen enemies in the area.

Talking about equip, we get to a part about the game I don’t appreciate much, which is the skill system. Every equipment comes with skills on it, which can range from “Attack +5″ or “SC regeneration when being hit +10%” to “All Stats +20″. All skills have a category and an element. Matching these on a grid can get you bonus skills like the aforementioned “All Stats +20″ one. Skills can also be transferred between Equip of the same kind.
This is what I don’t like about it. If I don’t want to sacrifice my “All Stats+20″ and “BG+1″ bonus I have on Sorey right now, I can’t just equip new stuff I find on him because it might break my bonus. So a new sword might not be better than the one I started the game with. If you like min-maxing in menus, you might enjoy this system and I’m pretty sure it will turn out to be super exploitable, but I preferred the “buy stuff, equip it, all good” approach in Xillia 1 and 2.

THE THING

This section will contain minor spoilers considering Alisha and Rose. Don’t read if you have no idea what the whole debate is about. If you want to read the rest of my impressions, jump down to the next red part.

Alright. Let’s get to the part I wanted to write about. I didn’t want to tweet about it since some people might consider this a spoiler, so here we go. I’ll just take all Tumblr criticism one by one.

The camera sucks!
That one is true.

Alisha is not the main heroine, the party hates her and bullies her out of the party because of Rose.
She’s not the main heroine, that’s true. She left my party around the 10 hour mark and I haven’t seen her since. But I don’t get where the whole “The party bullies Alisha all the time” thing came from because she’s loved by EVERYONE. She just left the party because she had a different goal than Sorey. She’s the princess, so of course she’d want to focus on her country rather than travel the world. Also, good riddance because people who bash on Rose because they loved Alisha pretty much just fell in love with Alisha’s design. Rose is the way more interesting character. Bullying Fujishima off Twitter… are you kidding me?

Everyone likes Rose for no reason.
I will admit that the writing when Rose joined was quite weird. They just meet her, find out that “Oh, she has a high affinity for Tenzoku because Dezel used her as his vessel for who knows how long” and decide to ask her along so that Sorey isn’t the only human in the party. Rose really has no reason to travel with them other than “Sorey is kind of interesting” which bugs me. Then again, she IS the easy-going character, so it fits. I would have liked a more serious backstory though. Maybe involving the whole assassin’s guild thing.

This game is the worst Tales entry since Tempest!
What are you even talking about?!

That DLC is a scam!
It is. I’m guessing they found out that Alisha got super popular before release and planned that DLC instead of getting in more screentime for her. When they got the backlash for the game, they probably decided to have it out earlier AND make it free. Still doesn’t make it a good move.

Verdict

You can read again.

Buy this game if you liked prior Tales games. They have ALL been flawed. You won’t like this game if you didn’t enjoy Graces, Xillia or Hearts, because Zestiria is essentially an amalgam of those. If you did, though: There’s no reason to skip this game over some stupid character debates.

It’s all good fun.

Dating Sim Month: Otometeki Koi Kakumei★Love Revo!! Introduction

Otometeki Koi Kakumei★Love Revo!!

Hello guys!

I know I haven’t blogged in ages, Bravely Default’s release (in the EU) came and went by – everyone loved it, to my delight – and eh… I just didn’t know what to write about.
I kind of desperately need a new hobby though, so I might just use this blog more often and serial-tweet less. You guys probably hate that anyway.
Might change (at least) the background and header, though. Making this more homely.

Anyway let’s get to the topic of this post. Anne over at Chic Pixel (a blog you should follow) announced her Dating Sim Community Game-Along project yesterday. I silently participated in #FalcoMonth finishing Zero no Kiseki Evolution – which was great – but I thought: Hey, why not actually write something about the game I’m playing this time? Which in turn made me revive this blog. Thanks for the incentive, Anne!

I’ve been thinking about what game to play, as the “rules” are rather relaxed and visual novels and even RPGs with dating elements are fine, as well. I pretty much ended up with Chaos;Head Love Chu☆Chu, since C;H is my favourite Kagaku Adventure, and I haven’t found the time to play this yet.
Then I realized “Hey, there’s still this Otome game you haven’t played which you got because the premise sounded so awful, you had to see it. Also it was dirt cheap and Sakupyon is voicing one of the characters.” I haven’t dated cute ikemen in ages, so I think I’m going to do that. There’s quite a few Otome games I still want to play, but I don’t own any of these yet (for the interested: School Wars, Diabolik Lovers and Norn9). There’s only one I currently own, so I’m going to play that.

The game I’ll be playing has the wonderful name Otometeki Koi Kakumei★Love Revo!! 100kg(Koko) Kara Hajimaru→Koimonogatari(Girl’s Life) or… kind of translated “Maiden-like Love Revolution Love Revo!! Starting From 100kg→Love Story” (or “Starting my girl’s life from here on out”). Yes, it’s weird.
Watch the opening above. Or watch the one from the previous version which is kind of way cooler. It came out originally in 2006 for the PS2. Then for the DS (which even got a fan translation I hear!) and then for the PSP in 2010. And then AGAIN for the PSP in 2013. Which is probably why it’s dirt cheap.

More about the game after the jump. You can help me decide which ikemen to go for first (´ ▽`).。o♡

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Five More Reasons Why You Should Buy Bravely Default

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So, Bravely Default has been announced for the west. 2013 in Europe, 2014 in North America. And as we all know I am one of the biggest BDFF fanboys you are going to find around here.

In my last post I told you about its great OST. Today it’s all about the game, because you will actually be able to play it soon. And you should. You owe it to yourself if you like JRPGs.

That’s why I sloppily compiled five reasons why after the jump.

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One Reason why Bravely Default is my RPG of 2012

I could write a lot about Bravely Default: Flying Fairy for the Nintendo 3DS. I could rant that Square-Enix still has not announced a localisation of this, or that they announced a “sequel” right afterwards which turned out to be a freaking browser game.

But I won’t, I will just rejoice in the fact that it is one of the best games they have put out in a decade. And one of the big reasons for this is its wonderful OST, on which I want to focus in this short post.

This is not a review, I will also not post more songs than “Ballad reaching towards Hope”, this is about the fact that they didn’t get “famous game music peeps” like Hamauzu Masashi, Sakuraba Motoi or even Uematsu Nobuo to make the OST for a very traditional RPG – a genre that really depends a lot on soundtracks. No, they got someone to do it who never made a video game OST on his own. Revo (of Sound Horizon fame) is a pretty well known musician in Japan, but this is his first solo-endeavour in the world of video games.

Getting him to make the OST for this game was the best choice Square-Enix has made in a long time. This Soundtrack sounds fresh while still being very traditional as Revo really likes to mix his instruments together. A lot of violins, the piano, even clockwork (it’s a theme of the game) found their way into the songs.

It’s a great soundtrack. I might be alone in this, but I’d rank it pretty near the Chrono Cross soundtrack, which is one of the most wonderful video game music releases I have ever had the pleasure to listen to.

So, listen to it and bug Square-Enix about Bravely Default. You do want this game.

Happy New Year: Some Things To Look Forward To

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明けましておめでとう as the Japanese say. It’s 2013, the world did not end last month, so I guess it’s about time we – or rather, I, because actually it was Lumy’s turn and she doesn’t even care, uguu – revived this blog. It’s a bother, but that’s the power of new year’s resolutions for you.

That said, I’m not really looking forward to this year all this much when it comes to all my real-life obligations. I plan to finish my degree, find a “real” job, so I can buy even more useless things, I would like to find a bigger flat and there’s also a visit to Japan planned if those things go well.

They probably won’t.

So in order to avoid thinking about all the hard things ahead, let’s think about the things we can look forward to. Be it Anime, Video Games or anything else. Mostly Import Games though. It’s all I do, lately.

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I’m still here!

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So, here we are again. This place might seem dead but it isn’t! Or at least it’s not supposed to be. A mixture of laziness and stress prevented me from posting which, I guess, is the same for Lumy. I had a lot of important exams to write and work has been busy. But I still did stuff!

For answers on just what I did and what kind of posts you can expect in the coming weeks, just read on!

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Spring Season 2012: A Review

First post here we go!

Every season I pick a lot of shows I want to watch but in the end I only watch a fraction of these weekly. Some others I marathon or semi-marathon (marathoning a series when there are still around three episodes or so left to air) later… the rest just gets dropped. Or not watched at all.

Since the season is nearing its end (I would have made a mid-season post but I didn’t have a blog), let’s examine what I found to be worth my while after the jump. Continue reading